Believe it or not, if UCLA loses this game, the Bruins still can carry the positive momentum from their last two games moving forward.
As the UCLA Bruins take on the Arizona Wildcats in a highly anticipated Pac-12 showdown, this game is more important for Arizona than UCLA. The Wildcats are 5-4 in their last nine games after starting the season 8-0 that included wins against Michigan State, Duke, and Wisconsin. Arizona is expected to win this game at home and UCLA is not expected to win three game in a row by comparison. Both teams boast rich histories and passionate fan bases, making this game an interesting game but the Wildcats have more to lose than UCLA by losing this game. Let's dive into the key storylines and what to expect from this matchup.
Struggle for consistency: The Bruins started the season with high hopes, but they've been plagued by inconsistency. Despite flashes of brilliance like their recent win over Washington and their resilience and grit shown in a road win against Arizona State, they've also had disappointing losses to Oregon and Utah on the road. The team relies heavily on their defense, ranked 18th nationally, but their offense (112th) has struggled at times.
Key Players: Top contributors this season are leading scorer Sebastian Mack (13.5 ppg), big man Adem Bona (12.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg), and Dylan Andrews (9.9 ppg, 3.8 apg).
Biggest questions heading into this game: Can UCLA find their offensive rhythm against a tough Arizona defense? Will their young roster handle the pressure of this big road game against a top 15 road team on the road?
Contenders to win the Pac-12: The Wildcats are currently ranked 12th in the nation according to the and are looking to solidify their position as Pac-12 favorites. They boast a balanced offense led by Caleb Love (18.4 ppg), Oumar Ballo (12.4 ppg), and Pelle Larsson (12.4 ppg) and a stifling defense anchored by Kylan Boswell (1.5 spg) and Keshad Johnson (6.5 rpg).
Strengths to watch: Arizona's size and athleticism on the interior present a major challenge for UCLA's young front court. Their transition game is also potent, and their home crowd at McKale Memorial Center will be electric.
Keys to victory: Maintaining defensive intensity while finding offensive rhythm early will be crucial for Arizona and not playing like they did against Stanford. They need to limit turnovers and capitalize on second-chance opportunities unlike they did against Washington State.
UCLA Bruins rankings as of 1/19
Net (NCAA) Ranking: 161
Pomeroy College Basketball (Ken Pom) Ranking: 111
Rating Percentage Index (RPI) Ranking: 198
College Basketball Power Index (BPI) Rankings: 134
NCAA Tournament Probability: 0.4%
Arizona Wildcats rankings as of 1/19
Net (NCAA) Ranking: 3
Pomeroy College Basketball (KenPom) Ranking: 3
Rating Percentage Index (RPI) Ranking: 42
College Basketball Power Index (BPI) Ranking: 3
The basketball history between UCLA and Arizona and a glimpse of the game prediction for the game between the Wildcats and Bruins.
The winning streak in this basketball series between UCLA and Arizona: The Wildcats have won the last game against the Bruins in this Pac-12 rivalry having a one-game winning streak.
The last game between Arizona and UCLA: Arizona defeated UCLA on a neutral court in the Pac-12 tournament on March 11th of last year by a final score of 61-59.
The most impressive win this season for Arizona and UCLA according to their opponent's current NET Ranking: For the Wildcats it was their double-digit win against Alabama and for the Bruins, it was a victory against Washington.
The record for Arizona against UCLA for the last ten meetings they played against one another: The Wildcats have lost six of the last ten games against the Bruins.
The last five meetings between these two basketball programs: Arizona has won four of the last five times they have played UCLA.
Pac-12 games this season for Arizona: @ Stanford, lost 82-100; @ Cal, won 100-81; Utah, won 92-73; Colorado, won 97-50; @ Washington State lost 70-73; USC, won 82-67
Pac-12 games this season for UCLA: @ Oregon State, won 69-62; @ Oregon, lost 64-59; Stanford lost 59-53; Cal lost 66-57; @ Utah, lost 82-67; Washington won 73-61; @ Arizona State won 68-66
Which team is predicted to win the game according to ESPN Analytics?: They have Arizona as having a 97.5% chance of winning this game against the Bruins.
Game Prediction: Arizona at home will be too much for UCLA as the Wildcats defeat the Bruins by a final score of 81-70.